The New Testament book of Hebrews calls it "A Great Salvation". Saint Paul refers to it as "The unsearchable riches of Christ." Down through history, thousands of books were written and countless sermons preached about the cross of Christ. Yet, millions of people still do not understand why Jesus loved us so much that he willingly endured the agony of the crucifixion. Strangely, much of the confusion surrounding Christ's great salvation comes from within the worldwide Christian Church. During His earthly ministry, Jesus always contrasted the truth of His Father's Word with the religious counterfeits of His time as an effective way to teach. We attempt to use the same format that Jesus followed, which is the reason there is an "abrasive edge" and a "defensive tone" to some of our material. The New Covenant Gospel of Christ, which proclaims the "good news" about God's free gift of eternal life is our most important message. Yet, many spiritual leaders today will attempt to cheat you out of this incredible Divine gift and the many blessings associated with it.
We hope you will allow us to share this part of our life with you.
Our desire is to:
Invite you to become a member of God's family.
Introduce you to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
Warn about the disastrous spiritual traps that exist within
the institutional Christian church.
Offer an opportunity to discover God's Mystery.
Allow you to get acquianted with us.
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How To Receive Christ's Great Salvation
The Rock of Offence website exists for another unique purpose, which may cause some visitors to be uncomfortable or even angry. We operate in the role of "the watchman", which exposes the popular, yet wrong practice of mixing together the Old Testament Laws/principles of Judaism -- with the New Testament Grace of Christ. Both of these religious systems are recorded in the Bible and are governed by different sets of rules, which are directed at two different groups of people; Israel and Christ's New Covenant Church. Why do we focus our attention on this area? Because most of the false doctrines and skewed teachings found within the worldwide Christian Church can be traced back to this one misguided practice. When you consider all of these teachings, including the different variants that tend to change as they cross denominational lines -- we're talking about misleading doctrines that number in the hundreds, if not thousands. To say that this causes massive confusion and frustration is an understatement. We attempt to focus on the common root problem of these teachings rather than addressing each one individually in order to keep our commentaries at a reasonable length. Due to this self-imposed restriction, we obviously fall short of covering all issues. Yet, we strive to shed light on an a dangerous area of counterfeit Christian doctrine that can cause believers to go astray in their faith.
You will not be asked to join or financially support anything.
The ministry of the watchman rarely comes from a pulpit on Sunday morning -- and most Christians are never warned about the spiritual consequences when churches, various evangelistic ministries and entire denominations stray off course. Watchmen possess a tried and tested knowledge of God's Word in order to warn others about wrong doctrine that masquerades as popular mainstream Bible teaching. These warnings commonly offend and threaten leaders of various church organizations and individual Christians. Anger results when church-going people are confronted with the possibility that their beliefs may be based on unbiblical ideologies, and not on God's Word. Rather than seek truth, many go to great lengths to protect and defend their cherished religious traditions. Unfortunately, this kind of combative response existed in the first century church -- and still exists today.
Distorting The Gospel: The Religious Right
One of the big problems facing the modern Christian Church is maintaining a "united front" against the constant attacks that assault family values in our culture. This is a hostile battle that the church is currently losing. Many godless influences are replacing the Biblical principles America was founded on at a frightening pace. As a result, a majority of Americans have now essentially rejected God and His ways and embraced the ungodly philosophy of "political correctness" and secular humanism. We've thrown the God of the Bible out of our society, our government and our educational system. It's so bad that we can no longer elect righteous leadership to public office because Godly "righteousness" is now viewed (and portrayed by politicians and the liberal media) as "bigotry and intolerance". Our economy is collapsing because America rejected godly financial principles and chose the ungodly worldly principles of "Socialism" instead. Christianity, or what our news media and politicians like to refer to as "The Religious Right", is the only thing that provides any kind of coordinated defense against this relentless assault.
We do not seek to minimize this most serious threat in any way. Now, more than ever, we need good people to speak up and strongly condemn this tidal wave of godlessness -- and vote accordingly. However, this presents "the institutional Christian Church" with a huge problem. In order to obtain the unity to fight this "cultural war for values", compromises and sacrifices must be made to keep infighting from breaking out within our fragile coalition. The "truth of Christ's Gospel" -- or attempting to define its true principles and nature, is the most polarizing and controversial topic that exists among "people of faith" today. Everyone believes something different -- AND EVERYONE'S BELIEFS ARE NOT CORRECT. Obtaining eternal life (or "salvation") is something that Jesus provided for us through the cross. However, the incredible blessing of eternal life depends entirely on correctly discerning "truth", which is based on certain "absolutes" found in the Holy Scriptures. To maintain a united front (the new name for this effort is “Christian Tolerance”), the New Covenant Gospel message is commonly redefined (or, in some cases, thrown out entirely) in an attempt to keep from offending its participants and members. Currently, there is an effort underway in the Christian Church that quietly shifts the Gospel from its rightful position in The Grace of Christ (also known as God’s unmerited favor) as taught by the New Testament -- to a position back under the previous strict rules and judgments of Old Testament Law. This influence and change is not coming from either Christ or our Heavenly Father. If executed properly, the context of the Bible is skillfully ignored or twisted in such a way that few professing Christians will notice this spiritually destructive "shift". As far as they’re concerned, the teachings of their church will all continue to sound like “good fundamental teaching from the Bible”. Yet, this perception will prove to be not only false, but spiritually disastrous.
Many high profile church leaders believe that this change is necessary to combat society's growing acceptance of sin and wickedness. It is believed that the strict judgments of Old Testament Law -- AND NOT THE NEW COVENANT GRACE OF CHRIST -- is the most effective way to confront a rebellious and godless society. Two popular names associated with this agenda is Dominion Theology (also known as Christian Reconstructionism) and numerous expressions and variations of Reformed Theology (specifically, the popular teachings of Calvinism). These mainstream influences, which dominate the vast majority of what is known as "Protestant Christianity", subtly attempts to place all worldly governments, including America, under a type of Old Testament "Theocracy". Yet, countless variations of these religious “theologies”, along with different (and misleading) names and titles, are involved in this popular effort. Some are blatantly "Old Testament" in their doctrine and are easier to identify, while other variants mix tenets of Old Testament Law and New Covenant Grace together making it almost impossible to detect and expose. THESE ABBERANT PRACTICES PLAGUED THE EARLY FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIAN CHURCH AND ARE NOT NEW. They are always sold to the public as fundamental Bible teaching -- and can be traced back to the dangerous error that the apostle Paul warned about AND CONDEMNED in his epistles. To make matters worse, this agenda crosses all denominational lines and cannot be identified by any one name or title. High level spiritual leaders in the institutional Christian church are not openly talking about this change -- THEY'RE JUST DOING IT -- and the eternal spiritual consequences to their actions are shocking and unthinkable.
Some readers may think that we’re unfairly focusing on Protestantism, while ignoring some of the more serious problems found in other sectors of Christianity, such as Roman Catholicism. Readers should rest assured that we’re aware of these serious issues. There are two reasons for these actions:
First: We attempt to avoid the popular practice of “group-bashing” on this website. As with Protestantism (and contrary to the opinion of some), there are many authentic believers in Christ in the Roman Catholic Church. When we examine the various attacks against Christianity, you begin to see that the Protestant side of the isle has enough problems of its own without opening another endless cycle of discussion. We are not ignoring or down-playing the problems found within Catholicism. Our desire is to keep discussion from “spiraling out of control” -- and we chose to focus on the wrong doctrines and teachings that are distorting the Gospel of Christ rather than opposing individual religious groups. Obviously, there are exceptions to our position. It is impossible to cover every subject, which is why we try to avoid getting into the heated and emotional Protestant-Catholic disagreement, which has lasted, without resolution, for over 5 centuries.
Second: The early roots of the Protestant Reformation began to gain momentum around 1500 A.D. At that time, America didn’t exist. During the time of the early reformers, no Protestant churches existed as they do today. Most all activity in the movement was in Europe. Before the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church was, for the most part, the only “recognized” Christian church in existence. Yet, for various good reasons, God desired to change this spiritual monopoly. Many of the Protestant reformers came out of the Roman Church. For example, Martin Luther, a major leader of the reformation, was formerly a priest and a highly trained theologian, before he left the teachings of Catholicism. After closely examining the Holy Scriptures, Luther could no longer justify the distortions he witnessed. The church leadership, representing a powerful theocracy at that time, sought to execute Luther (originally one of their own) for his beliefs, which they considered a rebellious act against God and His chosen authority based in Rome. During his trial Luther gives his famous defense:
"(reply to the Diet of Worms Inquisition) Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns or teeth. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain reason (I do not believe in the authority of either popes or councils by themselves, for it is plain that they have often erred and contradicted each other) in those Scriptures that I have presented, for my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
The early reformers opposed many of the foundational doctrines of the Roman church. Yet, while correctly rejecting these teachings, which included the “divine” authority of the Pope as “Head of the Church” (Note: The New Testament Scriptures teach that our Lord Jesus Christ alone holds this position), they kept other wrong beliefs and brought them into the Protestant movement where they were incorporated in various foundational doctrines, too numerous and detailed to examine here. In some churches, these “foundational doctrines” are wrongly given “equal” authority to the Holy Scriptures. Some of the more serious problems we see in mainline Protestant congregations (such as the popular practice of mixing the Old Testament covenant of Law with the New Testament covenant of Grace) can be traced back to its source in Catholicism more than 500 years ago. To their credit, some Protestant (and even some Catholic) congregations chose to embrace Christ’s New Covenant of Grace, which now carries God’s full authority. The New Covenant didn’t officially begin until after Christ’s crucifixion. However, many Christian church congregations and their leaders (both Protestant and Catholic) continue to reject and distort this heavenly change.
Today, the Catholic Church contains many authentic believers in Christ who chose to remain within the denomination, while quietly disagreeing with the traditional problematic teachings that continue to be taught by its leadership. In some extraordinary cases, the Catholic Church began to change its message in favor of the New Covenant -- a change that rippled all the way to the Vatican in Rome. Much of this transformation resulted from a world-wide movement called, “The Catholic Charismatic Renewal” that took place between 1960 and 1985 and brought some major positive changes to church doctrine and tradition. This powerful move of God also miraculously spilled over into many churches on the Protestant side of the isle. I witnessed this amazing movement/revival first-hand. It was clearly a Divine act of God aimed at correcting many of the old problems that continued to plague both sides. Unfortunately, the “renewal” has now faded into history and the original problems are resurfacing as we approach the Second Coming of Christ.
Understanding The Unintended Consequences
An Old Testament-style theocracy is an earthly government that is said to be ruled by God and his laws. To the average Bible-believing Christian, this may sound like a good thing on the surface. But, there is a serious flaw and danger in this way of thinking. It always requires a group of leaders or rulers, acting as “God’s mediators”, who interpret God’s laws and intentions for the rest of us. These leaders must also have the power to punish all disobedience and resistance to their rule, WHICH THEY SINCERELY BELIEVE IS AN EXTENSION OF GOD'S KINGDOM. Because of the weakness of human nature, these man-centered judgments can be based on a misinterpretation of Scripture. Yet, under a “theocracy”, and because of the “absolute” nature of the leadership’s authority, challenging a wrong judgment is equated with challenging God’s authority and is punished accordingly. In the days before and during the Protestant Reformation, dissidents were commmonly "burned at the stake" or beheaded under the command of a dominate "theocracy".
This kind of religious mindset creates a very dangerous environment where God’s Word and authority is wrongly used for the purpose of validating some system of human authority. OVER TIME, IT ALWAYS CORRUPTS ITSELF AND BECOMES DANGEROUSLY ABUSIVE. In many cases, the Bible can be deliberately misinterpreted and used out of context by unscrupulous individuals to validate an oppressive dictatorship, tyranny -- or even an entire Christian ministry, movement or denomination. It creates the dangerous illusion that leadership’s authority comes directly from God’s throne. History shows that “theocracies”, whether they’re a church government -- or the earthly kind that rules an entire nation, have produced some of the most corrupt, oppressive and downright evil forms of human rule imaginable. The reader should understand that this corruption and oppression does not come from our Heavenly Father, but from religiously misguided people who “redefine” what God says to accomplish their own goals and purposes.
There’s another serious problem with an Old Testament-style theocracy that tends to shock the average Christian. Jesus Christ came to establish a “New Covenant”(Mark 14:24 -- Also read Matthew 26:28, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6), which not only fulfills, but supercedes the covenant of the Old Testament, which is now said to be obsolete (Carefully Read Hebrews 8:13). The New Testament teaches that Christ’s New Covenant is “a better covenant established upon better promises” (Hebrews 8:6) -- and it didn’t go into operation until after His crucifixion. Why is this important? When well-intentioned religious leaders either ignore or redefine Christ’s New Covenant and seek to re-establish an Old Testament theocracy because it better serves their agenda -- they unknowingly deny the works of Christ (Paul called it “perverting the Gospel of Christ” in Galatians 1:6-7) while appearing to be committed preachers of God’s Word. This kind of contradiction and confusion is common in the worldwide Christian Church.
America was not originally established by the Founding Fathers as a “theocracy” -- AND NEVER SHOULD BE -- for these reasons.
At Rock of Offence, we believe that distorting and redefining the principles and nature of Christ's salvation in order to gain a man-made unity to advance the "Family Values" agenda is incredibly misguided and will not end well. For that reason, we oppose these efforts BECAUSE IT DISTORTS THE GOSPEL and betrays many of the benefits and blessings that Christ died for, while maintaining the illusion of representing His Gospel and Kingdom. Yet, despite this ill-conceived strategy, WE CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE STRUGGLE TO DEFEND BIBLICAL AND FAMILY VALUES IN OUR CULTURE.
Distorting The Gospel: The Religious Left
Various students of the Bible are aware that some leaders of intercity Christian Churches are preaching a particular brand of “gospel” that fights what is commonly called “social injustice”. This practice has operated, in various forms, for more than 50 years. Unfortunately, it twists and redefines Christ’s words and Gospel (abuses Biblical context) into a persuasive tool used by “community organizers”, which adds a powerful “religious element” to the political agenda of "the left". It is designed to motivate a church member to take action in what they are told is “A Godly cause to help the underprivileged”. It’s the Political Left’s answer to “The Religious Right”.
Politics And The Bible
I dislike bringing political issues into any discussion about the Bible. However, like it or not, these things have a direct influence on the teachings of the church and society as a whole. I find it distasteful that modern politics and the Bible are almost hopelessly intertwined in our culture to such an extent that Scriptural truth is being threatened and buried under a mountain of misinformation and confusing rhetoric. Generally speaking, there is such a thing as right and wrong, good and evil in the Bible. They are Godly moral absolutes that are not subject to anyone’s “opinion”. However, in the modern world these moral absolutes are demonized and replaced with “moral relativism”, which tends to change right into wrong -- and wrong into right, depending on the beliefs of the individual. These practices are not just happening in Washington, but also in the Christian Church. Just change or twist the context of Scripture and put a “moral spin” on your position (commonly done by using the plight of the poor or “social injustice”) -- and you now have a convincing form of “truth” that can be designed to fit anyone’s beliefs. Yet, God condemns this practice and calls it “spiritual deception”. Today, offending someone makes you intolerant or “a bigot”. I often wonder how Jesus would handle these issues, considering the fact that He always taught His Father’s truth as an absolute. Jesus offended his audience to such an extent that He was given the name “Rock of Offence” (1 Peter 2:6-8). He never changed the truth to avoid offending people. Could this be one reason why religious people and their leaders, enraged by His teachings, were the very ones who pushed to have Him crucified because they couldn’t persuade Him to agree with their beliefs? These things are certainly worthy of some thought.
America’s Deadly Path
For decades we've heard left-leaning politicians in both political parties demonize the wealthy in this country. This is a popular message used to gain the support of the public, especially those who are needy or are otherwise less fortunate. The warning, "A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul", is not only painfully true -- but clearly states the core of America’s problem. Most citizens are unaware of how out of control this "tax the rich" situation has become. Right now, the top 10% of income earners, representing what the media loves to call "the wealthiest Americans", are the ones that drive the economic growth engine of our country. They are the job creators. Many are small business owners that are now struggling to stay financially solvent -- with another wave of crushing new taxes about to hit. Many will lay off employees and shut their doors under the current administration's new policies. Some of the more “conservative” studies show that they carry approximately 70-80% of the entire tax burden of the country with more taxes on the way. This is nothing but a repeat of the "spread the wealth" politics of old-school Soviet-style socialism legally implemented through the tax system. What's unbelievable is that the average American has been programmed to believe this is "just and right".
Whether the reader agrees -- or not, it's this main-stream belief of society and their choices at election time that's causing American industry to either permanently close their doors -- or relocate offshore in other countries. Recently, I read of another group of businesses making this painful decision. Economists that track statistics are becoming alarmed because the real unemployment rate in America is approaching 25% (and accelerating) -- not the “cooked book” number that the government reports to the public. The United States currently has the highest corporate taxes in the world, while over 50% of the voting public pays little to no taxes. Take a guess how that 50%-plus group votes at election time. As a result, we are now firmly locked into a downward spiral that is converting America to a "third world country" as our prosperity and jobs slowly disappear. The rate of decay is so slow that many Americans won't realize what has happened until it is too late. It takes decades to rebuild the industrial base of a nation. The old example of the "frog slowly boiling to death in the pot" should certainly give us something to think about. Whenever there's an effort to ease taxes (or "equalize" the tax system) in order to create more jobs -- politicians on the left and their partners in the media (and sadly, some in the Christian church) protest by saying, "There they go, giving a tax break to the wealthiest Americans, while the poor suffer." Readers should not think that we are insensitive to the plight of the poor and needy. We are grieved that the poor are suffering -- and, unfortunately, more suffering is on the way because of the political choices we are now making. Yet, it's not because of tax breaks -- it's because of the popular political policy of socialism that "buys" the votes of the public by promising expensive entitlements to certain powerful blocks of voters at election time using the tax money and resources of American producers. History warns that it’s the very same political trap that destroyed the once powerful Roman Empire -- FROM WITHIN. Some readers can and will disagree all they want, but this is the unavoidable mechanism now in operation. This ongoing process is sucking the life and prosperity out of our country. It is a proven fact that true prosperity and economic power comes from lower taxes and job creation, not welfare-style spread the wealth money handouts.
No truer words were spoken than those of the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who said (paraphrased):
"The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."
Dr. Adrian Rogers, popular Pastor and three term president of the Southern Baptist Convention had a similar view:
"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from someone else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."
Some Christians actually think that Jesus Christ was a liberal. It is well known that Christ had a burden for the poor. Yet, Jesus said, "For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always." (Mark 14:7) Jesus continually encouraged the wealthy to use their resources to help those in need. However, regardless of His burden and concern for the poor, He never compromised or bankrupted his own earthly ministry trying to solve an unsolvable problem. Jesus never confiscated money from those that possessed worldly riches in order to eliminate poverty. Why? Because wealth confiscation, or stealing, is a sin that God hates. Those on the political left agree with this sinful act because they have deceived themselves into believing that stealing on behalf of the needy is moral and right -- and they've successfully sold this lie over the last 50 years to the average American citizen through the churches and our public educational system. Deception of this magnitude allows them to trick us into thinking they hold "the moral high ground", while continuing these practices (empowered by the authority of the law) with the approval of their conscience. This is why many on the left have an "elitist" attitude and consider those that hold opposing viewpoints that agree with America's Founders, as "intellectually ignorant".
Years ago, Norman Thomas, a former U.S. Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party, correctly suggested that modern-day liberalism is nothing more than old-school "socialism" with a different name. Thomas went on to predict that America will eventually adopt every aspect of this seemingly new political philosophy. His prediction, unfortunately, came true as one by one America's finest educational institutions and the national news media turned radically socialist (liberal). Even America’s “Ivy League” colleges that were originally founded on Christian principles are now godless institutions that embrace this agenda. Socialism's name was changed to hide its true destructive nature from the public. The name change is occurring once again as those on the left try to redefine themselves as "Progressives", which automatically implies that those who oppose their agenda are “backward and unenlightened”.
Many modern-day liberals, including those that consider themselves as "Christian", need to relearn the lessons of history -- that the "socialism" they advocate for America is actually a godless political philosophy that accomplishes its objectives by hiding behind a deceptive mask of "charity and morality". Currently, every student from age 6 and up, attending public educational institutions (including nearly all colleges and universities), are unknowingly indoctrinated with the principles of this godless philosophy. Most parents are clueless to what’s being done to their children in the classroom. America has failed to learn that the most hideous forms of evil and wickedness always do the most damage by masquerading as "good and moral". The Christian Church should wake up and pay attention to this effective tactic, which is now being used against her FROM WITHIN. Over the last 100 years, Communism, a form of socialism, was responsible for the worldwide genocide of untold millions of people. It's still alive and well today under various different names. While being sold to the public as something "moral and advantageous to the people" on the surface, it does not represent Jesus Christ or His Church. Continuing to confiscate (or steal) money from the producers in our country in order to "redistribute the wealth" will, like a cancer that eventually “sucks the life” and kills its host, continue to destroy our nation FROM WITHIN. When our country finally collapses, most Americans, dumbed-down by both its educational and religious systems, will be saying, "how could this happen". All they have to do is look in the mirror.
Hollywood actor and political activist Charlton Heston gave a warning to a group of students at Harvard over 10 years ago. It's a reminder of what we now face as a nation:
"When the government is allowed to tell us what to think, telling us what to do is not far behind."
Trying To Make Sense Of The Confusion
In keeping with our view of the cultural war for “family values”, we are not insensitive or indifferent to “social injustices” -- when they are true “injustices”. MANY ARE JUST POLITICAL AGENDAS REDEFINED AND DISGUISED AS SOCIAL INJUSTICE. It is not the goal of this commentary to examine these issues and the dangerous distortions in depth. We are more focused on how these things can pervert (this is the word the apostle Paul used) the “truth of the Gospel of Christ”, while attempting to warn other believers. These powerful issues of both the political right and the left are seducing a majority of Christian leaders across all expressions of the institutional church. Our warning is that trusted leaders, overseeing literally millions of professing Christians, are subtly changing and/or redefining, through the misuse of Biblical context, the Gospel of Christ and various teachings of the Bible in order to motivate their congregations to participate in their agenda, which is marketed as a desperate war to win over the mind of our society. Both groups in this struggle insist that “God is on their side”. As we’ve said many times, these are not influences coming from some “fringe” element of the church. They are now MAINSTREAM MOVEMENTS and carry many dangerous unintended eternal consequences for church members who are unaware of these stealth changes to their church’s doctrine when compared to the truth of Scripture.
If God does not intervene soon, these popular, yet toxic religious influences masquerading as “God’s Truth” now has the power and momentum to overwhelm the good news of the authentic Gospel of Christ and silence the voice of the true Christian Church.
"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified." (2 Corinthians 13:5)
The Silent War Against The Gospel Of Christ
Popular movements and emotional church growth programs can blind us to cleverly hidden distortions of Scripture, which will not affect a true watchman. For this reason they are often accused of causing “disunity” in the church, or failing to walk in love. God's Word usually interferes with many of the goals and growth initiatives of church organizations and personal ministries. This is why some leaders commonly redefine, set aside, or water down Scriptural truth if it gets in the way of their plans. This is the sad legacy of the modern church growth movement -- and it crosses all denominational lines. As a true watchman, Jesus gives us a warning about how His enemy operates; yet few of us take it serious today.
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's
clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."
Paul also warned us about the same dangers: "For
such are false apostles, deceitful workers, TRANSFORMING
THEMSELVES INTO THE APOSTLES OF CHRIST. And no
marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
THEREFORE IT IS NO GREAT THING IF HIS (SATAN'S)
MINISTERS ALSO BE TRANSFORMED AS
THE MINISTERS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS . . ."
(2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
To the church of Ephesus, Jesus said, “I know your works,
your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those
who are evil. AND YOU HAVE TESTED THOSE WHO SAY
THEY ARE APOSTLES AND ARE NOT, AND FOUND THEM
TO BE LIARS . . ." (Revelations 2:2)
What is both Jesus and Paul saying here? They're sternly warning that our enemy uses a tactic that disguises false religious teaching and practices by making them look like good things that comes from God. Satan is a master at making wrong doctrine look like fundamental truth from the Bible. He accomplishes this deceptive task by removing Scripture from its Divinely ordained context, yet continues to call it "God's Word". These things are known as "counterfeits" and few Christians today can discern the difference. Like counterfeit money, spiritual counterfeits are very difficult to identify. Most Christians confidently believe they can recognize false religious teachings and practices -- because they are obviously opposite to “good” and can be easily identified. Yet, in the world of religion, evil rarely appears as an “opposite” to good. The Bible warns that these counterfeits are so well hidden and so cleverly constructed that truth-seeking Christian believers must make a special effort to train themselves to discern the difference!
“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
Jesus said that these hard-to-identify "counterfeits" would greatly increase in number as the end of the age draws near -- and that we need to constantly question their legitimacy, as was the practice of the believers in Ephesus. Currently, the modern church is over-run with those that falsely claim to represent the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Some of these churches and denominations operate within the modern day Christian unity and “church growth” movements. Preaching the Gospel of Christ always carries two prime responsibilities. First, we seek to tell others about the great salvation Jesus provided for us through His crucifixion. Second, we seek to expose popular spiritual counterfeits so that new believers can avoid the enemy's traps. Modern evangelism embraces the first responsibility, yet totally ignores the second one because it offends their audience. Jesus and the early apostles practiced both.
Learning To View The World Through God's Eyes
Various churches, movements and denominations place a lot of emphasis on the things they think their members should be doing. Yet, many of us would be surprised to learn that what some spiritual leaders think we should do -- and the things our Heavenly Father may actually want us to do is often "miles apart".
I certainly agree that performing activities such as worship, prayer and evangelism is desperately needed now, more than ever -- as long as it remains completely voluntary and without coercion. Spiritual coercion is a form of intimidation that is used by some churches to generate fear in order to gain some kind of dominant control over the church member's life. This practice usually involves the misapplication of Scripture and is condemned by our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, many spiritual leaders justify it as necessary for the spiritual benefit of the church member. Some churches with large memberships (often called "mega-churches") possess intense levels of dedication to various forms of "Christian disciplines" and activities that seem, on the surface, to be good and proper. When done for the right reasons these things can honor God, further the cause of the Gospel, win the world to Christ and produce many other good things. However, it would be unwise to make a personal decision to join such a group based solely on their outward religious zeal and congregational size, which can appeal to many people's ego (pride). Religious zeal energized by spiritual pride is not only very common, but it's also a hard to detect influence that drives a lot of "good looking" practices and religious activities in the modern church. It is usually ignored because it resides deep in the human heart, where it remains hidden from view. This situation becomes even more dangerous when a strong-willed church leader possesses these wrong motivations and attempts to "enforce" certain disciplines on the congregation (for their own good of course) through the practice of "twisting Scripture".
The Bible refers to these wrongly motivated activities as "dead works". A "dead work" is usually a good work, activity or discipline performed for the wrong reason -- and our Lord Jesus demands that we repent from such things (Hebrews 6:1, Hebrews 9:14). Even good practices such as prayer, attending church services, Bible reading and evangelism can subtly become dead works when performed from the wrong motivations -- such as trying to impress other believers around us, attempting to prove to the Lord how "worthy" and righteous we are -- or to earn God's acceptance and love. Here is the danger: We can unknowingly engage in the practice of dead works, yet convince ourselves that our sacrifices and devoted works are pleasing the Lord and satisfies the commands of the Bible. HOWEVER, what we could be doing is trying to obey Scripture that has been “lifted” from the context where God placed it -- and using it in a way that our Heavenly Father never intended. This happens more than we know and is common in many churches and movements. The inward "motivation of the heart" that drives various spiritual activities are rarely what they appear to be on the surface. Falling into the subtle trap of "dead works" is an ever present danger for any church congregation or spiritual leader.
God's Favor And Acceptance Is Only Available
Through Christ's Redeeming Blood
Here’s one example from the Bible that highlights the danger. In the opening pages of the Old Testament book of Genesis, Abel and his brother Cain (sons of Adam and Eve) took their offerings and went before the Lord to worship (Read Genesis 4:1-13). Abel killed a young lamb from his flock and presented the blood sacrifice as an offering. Cain brought the fruit of his labor from the soil (a bloodless sacrifice), since he was a farmer. The Lord accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s. What was wrong with Cain’s offering? It certainly took far more work than Abel’s. He probably sweat and toiled long hours for months to produce his special gift. If someone on the outside was watching this event, they would probably say, “Look at what Cain accomplished for the Lord! -- Surely God will be very pleased with him.” But, God was following a different set of values that required a blood offering -- and "His ways" are the only ones that count in the end, whether we agree with them or not. In other words, Abel’s offering was accepted by God as a “living work” and Cain’s was rejected as a “dead work” -- even though Cain’s gift took far more effort, appeared to be good and impressive on the surface, and was offered with the best of intentions. But, good intentions don’t count in spiritual matters such as these. God’s rejection of Cain's offering angered him so much that he later murdered his brother. There’s a lot more to learn from this important Scriptural example.
This example from the Bible warns about making dangerous spiritual assumptions. We all have a natural tendency to assume that God is pleased with our acts of worship, just because we go to the trouble of offering them in a church service or in our personal prayer time. We assume that God accepts us because we sincerely and passionately sacrifice our time and energy to do the things that please Him. But, Cain had a similar mindset and was rejected. Why? Our Heavenly Father accepts us according to the principles established through Christ's sacrifice as, "The Lamb of God who TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD." (John 1:29-36). These principles govern what's known as a "blood covenant", which are rarely taught in a church service. Jesus called it, "The New Covenant In My Blood" (Read: Matthew 26:28, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:13, Hebrews 8:6-8, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 12:22-25, Hebrews 13:20-21). Under these radical and unique blood covenant principles, our sincerity and passionate works can never earn the Divine favor we seek BECAUSE IT COMES A DIFFERENT WAY THAN MOST OF US THINK. It was this very warning that the apostle Paul sounded throughout the New Testament. Yet, millions of deeply religious people and their leaders ignore "the covenant ways of God" and choose to do things their own way.
The Old Testament story of Cain and Abel represents what Bible scholars call a “type and shadow”, which gives us some insight into the future events involving Christ's crucifixion. It’s important to see that the “religion of Cain” (bloodless religious works) continues to persecute those believers who follow the ways of Abel (blood-bought Grace--1 Peter 1:18-21). As with Cain, millions of religiously motivated Christians within the church are secretly angered and work to either silence or redefine the message of Grace (God's unmerited favor), freely purchased for us by the blood of Christ, "The Lamb of God". This is not the effort of some fringe sect or splinter group; it’s a popular mainstream movement within Christian Orthodoxy. It’s a fierce internal religious struggle that’s been going on for nearly 2000 years, claiming many victims. By closely examining this truth, you can discover why millions of “professing Christians” today continue to strive to acquire eternal life and the favor of God through their tireless religious performance and activities, rather than through the totally sufficient power of Christ’s redeeming blood of the New Covenant. They relentlessly continue their agenda even though God’s Word warns that their way ends in spiritual death. Like Cain, they fully expect their devoted discipline and works, offered in the spirit of sincere worship, will motivate God to bestow His favor on their lives and grant them a place in heaven. However, their efforts will, as with Cain, end in bitter disappointment.
How much anyone sacrifices to attend church services, pray, read the Bible, worship and evangelize -- as important as these things are -- actually tells us very little about another issue that Scripture says is far more important. It's the same often-ignored problem that the apostle Paul warns the Church about in his epistles. When I look at any church or congregation, the number one thing I want to know is: "What gospel and which Jesus do they believe in". All other issues and activities, no matter how impressive, are secondary. At this point the reader may say, "What are you talking about?....There's only one Gospel and one Jesus spoken of in the Bible -- and that’s what my church preaches.” If you find yourself in this place, you may be surprised to learn that the Bible disagrees with your position.
Want to learn more? Feel free to click on the resource link below, which provides a good entry point illustrating
the difficult and uncomfortable challenges every Christian believer faces today.
On The Ligher Side, Here's A
Few Pictures From Our Life
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